How to Learn Cultural Policy? Cultural Policy in Estonia after 1989 and within the European Integration Process

Meisterson, Heli

After regaining independence in 1991, a process initiated by the movement of the ‘Singing Revolution’, national culture in Estonia proved to be a source of national identity and guarantor of the persistence of the nation, similar to the role of culture during the first wave of national awakening at the end of the 19th century. Representatives of culture were held in high esteem and actively participated in the development of the country during the first years. The preamble of the constitution specifies that the state must guarantee the preservation of the Estonian nation and culture for all times. With the restoration of its independence after a period of political, economic and cultural isolation, the nation wanted to open itself to the world again. Nevertheless, references to internationality were initially rarely used in the rhetoric of cultural policy, and up until today they seem to play a role only in connection to pragmatic questions of European or bilateral promotional programmes or strategies of international image building of the country. Within the circle of cultural activists, the connection to processes of international developments and cooperation has become livelier; the more successful ones already play by the rules of the age of post-nationalism. Against the backdrop of the development of cultural policy, twenty years after the societal change, this project aims to analyse learning processes in the field of cultural policy. This involves the investigation of the convictions, concepts, interests and aims of the representatives of cultural policy, the structure of institutions and the effect of an increasing professionalism on politicians, officials and cultural activists. How is culture treated as a factor for public diplomacy? Which motivations are there, which models of cultural policy are formed or adopted, and which role do international experience and exchange play? Which incentives emerge from the outside (such as the media, day-to-day politics, international sponsors and lobbyists, the general public, the European Union)? This project examines what is learned and unlearned, and which ‘lessons’ might be missed. The result will be a final evaluation of the interaction of national and European cultural policies, which will allow conclusions to be drawn that can be applied beyond the chosen example. The supervisor of the PhD project by Heli Meisterson, which is to be continued in 2011, is Matthias Middell.